Success comes from actively shaping your own destiny. Even downtime is an opportunity to engage in your life and invest in your future. The demands of work, family, and life can be draining, but that doesn’t mean we need to completely turn off to replenish. There are a lot of great options.
From my perspective, the best ways to use free time to recharge low batteries are exercise, creative hobbies, quality time with friends and family or quiet reflection/meditation. Doing any of these things outside in nature gives them an extra boost. All these activities ask us to engage on multiple levels. They hone our bodies, minds, skills, and relationships. They require us to be present.
One of the worst options is television, of which the average American now watches 5 hours per day. Multiplied out over a year, that’s more than two entire months spent vegetating. Unfortunately, TV has never been more appealing. There is a ton of fantastic content available, and it’s never been more convenient to access. But ambitious people should be wary because it’s passive. And passivity is pretty much the opposite of what I see in the most successful people.
I admire people who have a lot of focus and willpower. These are learnable skills that don’t come from watching TV. The classic way is through hobbies. A hobby trains us to focus attention on one thing for an extended period and it demands perseverance. We gain these key life skills by finding an activity that we enjoy enough to get us through the struggles.
Among TV’s biggest costs is increased physical idleness. We already sit all day, at work, in cars, etc. But too much physical rest atrophies our bodies and actually makes us weaker and more tired. An inactive body also has less blood circulation, which leads to lower brain activity. Unlike reading, TV doesn’t really even ask us to use our imaginations. So, any activity that involves movement will quickly boost our wellbeing. If it’s physically demanding, like a sport, then we can get the focus-and-willpower bonus too.
I think of watching an hour of TV as kind of like eating a scoop of ice cream. It’s not good for me, but it feels nice, and it’s not really going to hurt anything. But if I started eating 5 scoops a day, I know that would definitely cause problems. So when I get home from work and want to recharge, or when I have a little precious free time, I always try to remember my goals and invest my time wisely.